Ultimate Gaming’s $20 prize begins online revolution

For over a decade Station Casinos fought the good fight to make the first “play for pay” online poker site in the United States a reality. And, suddenly it was.
“It’s truly an historic day. We wanted to be online as fast as we could without cutting any corners,” said Chris Derossi, chief technology officer at Ultimate Gaming, a majority-owned subsidiary of Station Casinos LLC.
And so without fanfare, at 9 a.m. last Tuesday, the first legal hand was dealt. It was a nine-player table, each putting in $5. First place paid $20 at UltimatePoker.com.
Baby steps with gigantic possibilities for gaming.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be the first company in the United States to offer legal and secure online poker,” Derossi said. “There was no announcement beforehand because we wanted to do it right. Once the Nevada regulators and Gaming Control gave us the go-ahead, we were up.”
Station Casinos now has the heads up – ahead of everything else, at least for the present. For sure everyone will want to jump in, like the Gold Rush from Wild West days. But that’s in the hands of the states and the federal government.
It probably won’t take over 10 years like it did Station, but right now they own the only license and are all alone dealing hands.
“We are partnered both with UFC (Ultimate Fighting) and Station Casinos,” Derossi said. “We are the exclusive online gaming partner for the UFC. Separate companies but we sort of have a DNA sharing.”
UFC and poker? Well, I could see Mike “The Mouth” and “The Brat” in the Octagon. Seriously, Matasow and Hellmuth now have a forum for playing live events for money online.
“Ultimate Gaming is close in name and the companies believe it’s a perfect match demographically with poker players,” Derossi said. “Ultimate Gaming has Antonio Esfandiari, one of the world’s top poker players, representing us.”
The company headquarters is an enormous warehouse off West Harmon across from Interstate 15 and CityCenter. There is also an adjacent warehouse available for use at any time.
“Here we have customer service support, marketing and the executive headquarters,” Derossi said. “We also have a software development team in Silicon Valley, California.”
Players who sign up for Ultimate Poker can deposit funds and cash out at any of Station Casinos’ 16 locations across the Las Vegas Valley after they have created an account online. For now, play can take place only in the state of Nevada. But the potential is worldwide.
“Purses are player to player,” Derossi said. “They can sit down at tables they are comfortable with. Those who want to get used to the site can play for as low as 2 and 5 cents. We go up from there. We can set the limit at anything the players ask for.”
Tournaments run every day. The first big event came last Sunday with a $10,000 pot. It is 24 hours, seven days a week for both players and management.
“Station saw this (online poker) coming 10 years ago and decided to invest in it,” Derossi said. “They decided to own their own technology, rather than be a licensee of somebody else. We brought the technology in house, giving us control of our own destiny. It allows us to do things our competitors are not going to be able to do the same way.”
The name Ultimate Gaming suggests there is plenty of room to expand beyond poker for pay online.
“Games like craps and blackjack for pay are not legal online, but ultimately could be in our plans,” Derossi said. “That’s for another day. Today it’s about signing people up for poker from all over the world so long as they are playing in Nevada.
No doubt there will be people trying to circumvent the system, whether getting in from other parts of the U.S. or overseas. Derossi said his company won’t allow that to happen.
“Our software has substantial measures to make sure you are in Nevada when you wager,” he said. “Poker tourism is our market. We are at the beginning of a very exciting industry here. Nevada now is the world’s largest poker room.”

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